Sunday 23 September 2018

Flaming burgers!

Yesterday was a busy, full-on day so no blog post. After an excellent teaching and discussion session in the morning we had various activities in the afternoon, including a treasure hunt which we were able to enter this time as it had been set by someone else. We won, despite dropping half a point because I forgot to return to one clue to get some more information. Don and Celia did a barbecue - Don had an interesting technique.

It all tasted fine, I'm pleased to say.

In the evening we had songs, sketches and readings; this morning we had a short communion service just for the BCFers, then we joined the usual congregation for a service in the church before Sunday lunch in the Fazeley Inn just down the road.

And then … it was our last half mile of boating for this year (possibly), taking the boat to Fazeley Mill Marina for diesel filling and Elsan emptying. This is Tolson's Footbridge while the sun was shining; at the marina we had a sudden downpour.

After winding at Fazeley Junction we returned to our online mooring and relaxed. I'll load the car tomorrow.

Friday 21 September 2018

A BCF gathering at Fazeley

More people arrived today for the BCF weekend at Fazeley. We hosted several on our boat at various times both before and during a committee meeting. Here are Don and David …

both of whom are on the committee. Jan (stripy top) is here chairing the meeting. (I'm not on the committee, so I was able to welcome Andy and Sue and Chris and Di on board this afternoon.)

This evening we had a social get-together with drinks and nibbles in the church hall; tomorrow there will be a teaching session in the church followed by activities in the afternoon, a barbeque and entertainment in the evening.

There are six boats here altogether: Sonflower, Jubilee, Erin Mae, Ichthus, Ultrea and Spring Water. David and Mary have left Kew at Hawne Basin ready for the Parkhead festival next weekend.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Overspill weirs on the Coventry Canal

We lit our stove today as we did mostly sedentary jobs this morning. It was good to get the lovely warmth - and occasional smoky smell - from the dry logs we've been carrying around all summer. It was also very good not to have to go anywhere in the rain! This afternoon Jan walked and I cycled to Tamworth for a little light shopping (no, we didn't buy any little lights) and stayed dry. Now (10pm) it's pouring with rain again (on the day, naturally, when CRT announced the closure of the Caldon Canal at Hazelhurst Locks to save water on the T&M).

Cycling along the Coventry Canal towpath the other day I photographed a couple of overspill weirs.

They didn't have much to do ...

… but the rain will be making a difference. The River Tame in Tamworth was up today; it'll be even higher soon.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

The effects of wind

The main story today has been the wind. Trees were shedding leaves, twigs and bigger stuff. Mostly they were demonstrating their resilience by bending and not breaking.

Corrugated metal sheets were lifting off the roof of a farm building, banging and clattering as they fell back.
The flag at the Samuel Barlow, Alvecote, hung on by a thread.

The water in the marina looked distinctly choppy.

Even my coffee had waves.

And our BCF burgee flew like it has not flown before.

But I'm jumping ahead. Before we set off I helped Graham on Dawn Run (and another single-hander ahead of him) up the locks as far as Lock 5.

When we got going the wind certainly made it interesting. There was a certain amount of debris - mainly leaves - being driven into our faces, and my hat struggled to stay on my head despite the string round my chin. Some parts were sheltered, giving a respite, but the wind really made its presence felt in open spaces. Passing Alvecote Marina was where we received the most buffeting. At one point I saw a mass of leaves fall into the water ahead of me; when I got to it I saw that they were attached to a branch several feet long and 1.5 inches diameter. My hat wouldn't have provided much protection.

The crew of one boat we passed were concentrating so hard on steering that my "Good morning" was totally ignored. I could hardly have been closer to them when I said it, loudly. Any more of this and I'm in danger of getting a complex.

At Glascote we watered up and descended the two locks, the lower one being our last lock (probably) of 2018 (boo hoo!)

Despite a short but heavy rain shower the sun shone again as we tied up at Fazeley. We are here a few days early for the BCF gathering this weekend. Jan, as Chair, will spend the time preparing for the event and for the committee meeting on Friday.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

On the ball in Atherstone

I have never yet managed to get a decent shot of Hartshill Yard. Here the crane is partially obscuring the clock tower. I think the only way will be to get off the boat and take it from the towpath.

We came down nine of the 11 Atherstone Locks today, stopping below Lock 5 for lunch and a walk round the town.

I learnt something new about Atherstone today (or, more likely, relearnt - I tend to forget some things). Every Shrove Tuesday, while the rest of us are making and consuming pancakes, the people of Atherstone play football in the high street with an oversize ball. They've been doing this for - can you believe it? - more than 800 years.

Oh, and Atherstone is also famous for hat making, especially felt hats.

The last hat factory closed in 1990, according to the small museum in the high street (actually called Long Street).

Today started windy and drizzly; the drizzle stopped but the wind made for interesting boating. Tomorrow is supposed to be even windier. Fun! On my way back along the towpath after collecting the car I saw our friend and fellow BCF member Graham on Dawn Run coming up the bottom lock. I invited him to join us for a meal on board Jubilee, so we had a good chat over food and drink.

Now I must take the can off the cabin top otherwise the rattling in the wind will keep us awake.

Monday 17 September 2018

Nuneaton at Nuneaton

We walked the mile and a half into Hinckley town centre again this morning to meet up with Andy and Sue for coffee in "the office", aka Wetherspoon's. We returned to the boat via Lidl and had lunch, then set off towards the junction at 1400. We stopped for water at Bridge 15, just past the Limekilns Inn. The pressure here was low; after 20 minutes we gave up and carried on. At Marston Junction a horse and rider were crossing the bridge.

We turned right onto the Coventry Canal and met a motor towing a butty.

I thought that the last time I saw Nuneaton and Brighton they were signwritten as such; here I had only the cans to go on. The can on the motor was painted "Nuneaton", and on the butty the can ended in "...ton" so I guess that was Brighton.

We carried on through the town of Nuneaton and tied up near Hartshill. I cycled back along the towpath to Bedworth to pick up the car from outside Terry and Christine's house.

Sunday 16 September 2018

Using Waterway Routes to find abandoned canals

We found the Waterway Routes mapping system invaluable on the rivers in East Anglia recently; I was interested to see how useful they might be on the canals. I was expecting them to be not useful at all, given that we always use Nicholson guides and CanalPlan. But … guess what? Waterway Routes turns out to give a lot of extra detail compared with Nicholson, a case in point being lines of abandoned canals.

Coming along the North Oxford the other day I was able to spot - thanks to Waterway Routes - evidence of the former line of the canal in fields alongside the current course of the canal. It's a bit difficult to see in this photo, but there's a slight dip and change in the field pattern from the centre by the water off to the right.

It's easier to see in this next photo: the original canal ran alongside the trees - the cows are standing on the greener grass marking the route.

Another feature of the maps I have found useful here on the Ashby Canal is the clear marking of moorings. The "M" symbol indicates either piling or rings/bollards; handy when much of the rest of the bank seems to be reedy or overgrown. Oh, and when a water point is marked on Waterway Routes you can be sure that that is exactly where it is and that it will work. Mind you, it doesn't tell you how good the pressure is (perhaps a future refinement?)

Here's a screenshot of part of the Waterway Routes map for where we are in Hinckley. The top two M symbols in hexagons are actually on the same length of piling, but there are "No Mooring" signs at the bend, thus cutting the mooring space into two, as shown. The numbers in the long purple box give distance in km and miles, the number of locks, the number of moveable bridges and the time taken to travel from the beginning of the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction. So I know that it will take approximately two hours to get to the junction tomorrow.

I would have to say, though, that Nicholson (or Pearson) does give a lot of interesting background information on the area you might be travelling through, and it does tell you where pubs might be. Yes, many of the pubs listed in Nicholson have now closed, but for regular boaters they are a useful reminder of known hostelries. We will continue to use Nicholson but I have found we tend to keep the Memory-Map version of Waterway Routes within sight while travelling. The duration markers where you can judge the time it will take to navigate between two points are possibly slightly pessimistic, but it's better to be a little ahead of time than behind. We're only talking a few minutes in a journey of five hours, so not bad at all.

I haven't said anything about what we've done today: we joined Andy and Sue at their Hope Community Church in Hinckley this morning, then I cycled back to the boat to watch the Grand Prix. When that had finished we winded and went to Nutt's Bridge visitor moorings. We then walked into the town and met Andy and Sue again for a meal in Wetherspoon's. Back on the boat Jan and Sue practiced a couple of songs ready for next weekend while I rooted out an old dongle for Andy.

Here's one more photo (from Friday). A poor old Volvo P1800 has been in a garden with several other vehicles by Bridge 4 on the North Oxford for many years, getting more and more overgrown. As an old Volvo owner myself (in both senses) this hurts me!

Saturday 15 September 2018

Cracking bridges

We supported Christine's and Terry's church family fun day in Bedworth before resuming our travels, turning onto the Ashby Canal at Marston Junction. As I was making the turn a boat emerged from the Ashby, so I hung back in the wide opposite the junction. Fortunately the other boat was turning right onto the Coventry Canal, otherwise there would have been some interesting juggling of positions. As it was we were able to slip under the junction bridge with no problem. I took the photo looking back towards the junction.

Many of the bridges we passed under are built of stone; some seem to be cracking up. Here's Bridge 10 ...

… and this is Bridge 20.

Empress has a colourfully decorated cratch board.

We stopped by in Hinckley where Andy and Sue came to meet us, then Jan went with Sue in their car to their mooring while Andy steered Jubilee to Bridge 21. We walked back to their boat, Spring Water, and enjoyed a very pleasant meal and evening there.

Tomorrow we shall go with Andy and Sue to their church in Hinckley, then I shall watch the Grand Prix. I shall have to work out whether we have enough time to go to the end of the navigation before going to Fazeley by Thursday - I expect we have.

Oh - an update on the dodgy paddle gear at Stoke Bruerne: I had an e-mail from CRT yesterday saying that it had been fixed.

Friday 14 September 2018

Meeting friends: it's what boating is about

It wasn't the most peaceful of moorings yesterday evening. Until about 1930 that is. We were by the new town of Houlton being built alongside the Oxford Canal opposite Hillmorton. At least they didn't start work too early this morning, but when the diggers etc. started up it was a constant series of reversing bleeps. We didn't hang around.

A couple of CRT vehicles in their new livery were parked up a bit further north.

And more old boats. Here's one James and Amy will appreciate.

And here's Beaulieu (this photo is out of sequence - it was actually beyond the location of the last photo in this post).

Along the way we saw Derwent6 gleaming as always, so we stopped to say hello to Del and Al. They were just about to eat lunch so we didn't stay long.

Just as we were about to set off again John and Jane on Ichthus came past. We had stopped to chat to them at Brownsover, now we were to follow them to Hawkesbury Junction.

We watered up at the water point on the offside immediately above the stop lock - low pressure. Then to the Elsan point and on to Bedworth where we tied up to Grace and met up with Terry and Christine. Terry very kindly drove me back to Hillmorton to get the car, then they came aboard Jubilee for a meal with us. They supplied a delicious apple crumble.

We shall continue to Hinckley tomorrow to see Andy and Sue on Spring Water.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Piling on the pound

Before we set off from Buckby Top this morning I got talking to the owner of Evening Standard. I asked the obvious question and, yes, it is named after the London newspaper. It was built as a "concept boat" for the Ideal Home exhibition some 22 years ago, sponsored to the tune of £100,000 by the Evening Standard. At the end of the show it was given away to a lucky ticket holder. Can you imagine that? A random person, unlikely to have any boating experience or desire, suddenly handed the keys to a brand new narrowboat! Unsurprisingly the winner didn't want the boat but apparently dithered a bit over its sale. Eventually the present owner bought it at a considerable discount and is obviously still happy with it more than two decades later.

I didn't get the promised tour of the boat as the boat he was to share the locks with was leaving. Another time, perhaps.

The section of Grand Union immediately west of Norton Junction has long suffered bank erosion on the towpath side. For more than a year a rash of orange netting has prevented mooring here - but, at last, CRT has been doing something about it.

Yes, brand new piling. I bet many people can't wait to get their hooks into it.

There is still some back filling to do but it looks like all the difficult stuff has been done.

As we were just about to come out of Braunston Tunnel a boat entered and kept going fast. It hit us a glancing blow, the first time I have suffered contact with another boat in a tunnel for as long as I can remember.

The handrails at Lock 2 at Braunston were being repainted by a team of volunteers. One of the wheelbarrows contained essentials such as a big flask of coffee and boxes of biscuits.

The team must have been up against the clock as they asked us to wait while they painted.

Very unusually, we carried on through Braunston without stopping. We plan to meet friends in Hinckley tomorrow so we needed to get at least as far as Hillmorton. On the Oxford Canal I slowed and pulled in to the side to allow a working boat to pass unhindered. The level was a few inches down on normal which won't help deep-drafted boats. As the steerer passed not only did he not thank me for getting out of his way, he completely ignored my greeting. What did I do wrong?

Hillmorton Locks were the busiest I have known them, but we got through without much delay.

After tying up I cycled back down the A5 to get the car.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Cleaning lock gates on the Grand Union

A short day today: Weedon to Buckby Top. As we left Weedon we went under the new bypass bridge.

The bypass route has been chosen such that it crosses the canal and the West Coast Main Line railway at their closest point to each other, needing only one bridge. There's the very end of a Virgin train disappearing behind the pillars in the photo.

This section of canal is well endowed with interesting boats. The Jules Fuels pair look good laden.

What is the penguin-like structure on this Dutch barge, Frieslan?

The camping boat, William, with its Bolinder engine, lives along here, as well as a good few ex-GUCCCos and Joshers.

Coming up the Buckby flight we had to wait for a few minutes while CRT and volunteers pressure washed the gates.

They were making a good job of it, removing plants and moss. We've encountered countless gates on our travels where you can hardly see the wood for the trees growing out of it. Oh, all right, perhaps not trees, but plant life in profusion - and probably saplings too.

We got to the top at lunch time and decided to stay put. It was a quick and easy cycle back down the A5 in the sunshine to get the car - only four miles compared with yesterday's 11.2. Tomorrow it's Braunston and (probably) beyond.